I probably left half of the gear I bought for the trip back in the hotel. The night before we left, our guides went through all our bags and chucked out everything they thought was unnecessary; in the end, I wore the same base layer, thin mid layer and shell every day for the whole trip and never got too cold. Seeing as this was the first time I’d gone ski touring, I didn’t realise how much heavier your backpack feels two hours into an ascent! So here are my top 7 MUSTS for skiing the Haute Route (to be honest you really don’t need much apart from your skis and a good sense of humour!)
Haute Route Musts:
1. Supporting Rucksack: For the next week, your whole life is going to be encapsulated in this bag. Make sure you get one which isn’t going to break on you and can withstand anything which the Haute route throws at it. The most important thing with rucksacks is the support. You can have the lightest bag available, but if its got no support then your back will be killing you for all 180kms.
2. Down Jacket: Probably the greatest invention ever. To have that much warmth in such a small package is amazing. To be honest with you, I hardly wore my puffy on the trip because it was just so hot. However, it is vital in case of an emergency, where you might be hanging around in the cold for hours on end whilst waiting for help.
3. Sunglasses: Get some nice polarized ones. Wraparound are probably the best. The glare from the snow while you’re skinning can be unbearable.
4. Light Shell: it’s really important that you have something as light as possible, preferably Gore-tex. I had a fantastic 180g Dynafit one which I hardly took off. Regulating your temperature is all about layering, so it’s much more important to have lots of thin layers rather than a few big thick ones.
5. Sleeping Bag Liner: I’m pretty sure these are compulsory in the huts anyway, but you’d still want one because I’m pretty sure those beds haven’t been washed in a while.
6. Cash: You need to buy your lunch every day from the huts on the Haute Route, and they charge a lot, so bring a few hundred of euros AND francs. It’s also really nice to lounge out in the sun with a nice cold beer from the hut in the afternoon.
7. Luxury: Bring one luxury with you. Be this a pack of cards, eye mask or a small (or big!) flask of whiskey. You shouldn’t bring so little stuff that you’re making life hard, so find a good balance between what you need and what you want.